Nigerian policemen have come under heavy attack from criminal elements in recent time, leading to many deaths in the ranks of a police force that at best is heavily under-staffed. Now, what makes these killings even more disturbing is that it occurs across the country; from North to South, from East to West.
A cursory look at the most recent of these killings, which still paint a gory picture, will suffice. On June 30, three policemen were attacked by unknown gunmen in Akwa Ibom State. The policemen were ambushed in their vehicle while returning to their base in Azumini, Abia State, from Uyo where they had gone for an official assignment. Two of the policemen died instantly from the gunshot wounds while the third, who was the leader of the team, survived the attack.
In Nasarawa State, three policemen of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were killed earlier in June. The murdered security men were on a mission to douse the escalating conflict between Agatu farmers and Fulani herdsmen. They were reportedly ambushed by Fulani herders.
Similarly, seven police officers stationed at a police post at the junction of Galadimawa Roundabout after Sun City Estate in Abuja were killed by unknown gunmen. Police authorities said that the manner of the slayings showed that the killers were trained snipers: either ex-military or ex-policemen. It also emerged that the weapons belonging to the late officers, including AK-47 rifles, were taken away by the gunmen.
But the most gruesome of these horrendous slayings in recent time is the one that took place in Edo State where four policemen attached to Sabongida-Ora Division in Owan West Local Government Area were brutally gunned down. But what was most shocking in this particular assault on law enforcement officers was the way they were mowed down.
The policemen who were on patrol were ambushed and their assailants shot them as they alighted from their Toyota Hilux van. The patrol van was then set ablaze with the bodies of the murdered policemen inside. Their weapons were equally taken away by the killers.
This targeting and killing of policemen is disquieting to say the least, but what makes it even more worrisome is, what then happens to defenceless citizens when those who are supposed to secure and protect them from all sorts of brigands become target themselves? Even more alarming is the fact that the bandits perpetrating these crimes appear to be well trained marksmen given the execution-style slaying of some of the policemen.
The question that arises therefore is, who are these criminals? Where did they get their training in the handling of arms? The thinking, even in official police circle, is that these killers could actually be ex-policemen. This is not so far-fetched given the revelations from the Offa bank robbery case where one of the robbers was a disgraced ex-policeman who had a massive grudge over the way he was dismissed from the force.
Another issue that necessarily causes some disquiet is the fact that the weapons of the slain policemen were taken away by their killers. Those weapons are still out there and nobody can say whose hands they might fall into or what other crimes they might be used for.
So, the police authorities must intensify their efforts not only to retrieve lost weapons, they must also apprehend the violent killers. Catching the criminals will also provide the police needed intelligence regarding where they (the criminals) got their training or whether they are ex-servicemen. In this regard, the place of information in police work cannot be overemphasised. So, it is trite to say that the people must be involved in providing much-needed intelligence as that is the only way a deeply under-staffed force can hope to keep on top of the situation.
Again, questions have been asked about the legality of some of these patrols. Were they authorised? Who authorised them? The point here is that before patrols are embarked upon, proper authorisation must be secured and proper planning with adequate manpower must be deployed at all times. It won’t also be out of place to suggest something like a sense of situational awareness for our policemen. They have to be vigilant at all times, alert to happenings and tell-tale signs in their environment. Careless handling of weapons and the unrestrained interaction with civilians (even accepting drinks from them while on duty as the case of the killing of policemen at Ogba Zoo last year in Benin City show), must be curbed.
Finally, the families of the slain policemen have to be compensated. These families have not only lost loved ones they have lost their bread winners. So, the need to give them something to assure them that their loved ones didn’t die in vain cannot be overemphasised. The issue of compensation is one that is somewhat controversial. There have been instances in the past where wives and families of policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty have cried out that they have been abandoned by the police.
It is our hope that the families of those policemen who lost their lives are not only adequately compensated, but that it is done speedily and not subjected to unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.
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